Saturday, 5 January 2013

Dutch 27th Jäger completed!

Well, I have finished my first Napoleonic unit: the Dutch 27th Jäger.  I chose this unit as they were pretty much the first allied unit engaged at Quatre Bras.

They hadn't been the 27th Jäger for very long when they fought in the Waterloo campaign.  Until January 1815 they were known as Bataillon Jäger number 6. The January 1815 re-organisation was the third in a year for the Dutch army as it re-established itself following independence being regained in 1813, after nearly twenty years of French domination.

On 15th June, the day before Quatre Bras, the unit had 739 NCOs and men and 23 officers.  Most of the men were Dutch although there were also 43 Germans, 26 Belgians and 15 men from other countries.  As with all Dutch units they followed the French organisation of six companies, including two flank companies..

The commander of the battalion at Waterloo was Luitenant-kolonel Jan Willem Grunebosch who had been appointed in April that year.  He was an experienced officer who has served in senior positions under both the Dutch and French regimes; having been either commander or number two of two Dutch line battalions before this.

Uniforms consisted of a British style jacket in green with yellow cuffs and collar and red turnbacks.  The shako plume was green and yellow over green for the flank companies (white for senior officers).  They had a blue British issue canteen but French hide packs.

The Netherlands army hadn't had time to issue standards to its troops by the time of the Waterloo campaign but several units went into battle with unofficial flags and the 27th seems to have been one of these.  The original of the orange flag depicted in my unit is now in the Royal Netherlands Arms and Army Museum in Delft and it seems quite likely that it was carried at Waterloo, as it wasn't a colour as such but a battalion flag.  

In the Waterloo campaign they formed part of the I Corps under the Prince of Orange's 2nd Netherlands Division commanded by Lt Gen Baron de Perponcher Sedlnitsky in Major General Count van Bylandt's 1st Brigade.  Once messages arrived that Napoleon had crossed the River Sambre into Belgium Perponcher, on his own initiative, ordered Bylandt to take part of his brigade to Quatre Bras where the 2nd Brigade was already concentrated.  The 27th were one of the first units on the road.

By the early morning of 16th June they were stretched out in a mile long picket line south of Quatre Bras and the Grand Pierrepoint farm.  Two companies actually skirmished forward driving some French infantry back. They took the brunt of the fire from the 22 French cannon that opened fire that afternoon.  They were then advanced upon by columns of French infantry, lancers and Chasseurs à cheval.  In order to avoid being cut off they retreated to Gemioncourt farm, firing constantly at the much greater numbers of Frenchmen.  During the ensuing attack on the farm (only the two flank company were actually inside the buildings) the 27th were caught by the 6e Chasseurs à cheval before they had time to form a square and suffered casualties of nearly one third. Luitenant-kolonel Jan Willem Grunebosch had his horse shot from under him and was so badly wounded by sabre cuts as he fought on foot that Captain de Crassier had to assume command of the battalion. The 547 survivors managed to regroup further north.  The flank companies of the 27th, together with several companies of the 5th Militia (the next Dutch unit I am going to paint!) held Gemioncourt farm long enough to help delay the French advance and give reinforcements under Wellington time to reach the battle.  Eventually they had to leave the French to the farm and were attacked by French cavalry as they withdrew but their job had been done. The 27th had been in action the whole day.

At Waterloo, Bylandt's brigade, which had taken a hammering at Quatre Bras, fought alongside Picton's men to drive off D'Erlon's massed columns.  They also took a lot of cannon fire at Waterloo early on when they were placed as a picket line in front of the British left flank and by the end of the two battles the 27th's losses were 44%.

Anyway, I am delighted to have finished my first unit for the small portions of Quatre Bras I intend to refight. Next it will have to be a French battalion!


DeanM said...

Excellent looking unit - the color for the uniforms are great - colorful, yet purposeful. This is very inspiring as I am thinking of a Waterloo project and want to add units that are unique in look and nationality. Best, Dean

John de Terre Neuve said...

Delightful read, this division is next up when I finish my Brunswickers.

Nice figures.


Phil said...

Those Dutch Jägers are really nice, great work!

Sun of York said...

Excellent inspiration! I've just completed my unit.